PCOS is complex. It impacts many body systems and many body systems impact PCOS.
One of the body systems it impacts is the immune system.
This shows up in the body as inflammation – good and bad.
PCOS and inflammation go hand in hand.
To learn more about what PCOS actually is and how it manifests in the body, check out these articles:
In this article, you will see how inflammation affects a body with PCOS.
PCOS seems to affect everything, and everything seems to affect PCOS.
The more you know what is happening and what has gone wrong, the easier it will be to take actions to help support your specific symptoms.
What is Inflammation?
This word is kind of a buzzword lately. It is blamed for a lot of problems, but what is it exactly?
Inflammation is a normal immune system process that enables the body to contain and expel foreign matter (viruses, bacteria, a splinter…) from itself.
It protects the health and wellbeing of our beautiful, earthly bodies.
A few years ago, I got a pretty large sliver under my middle fingernail.
Oof. It was painful.
The cool part was that because it was under the nail, I could see my immune system in action.
I couldn’t remove all the splinter on day one. It just kept breaking into smaller and smaller pieces.
So for months I watched as my body pushed out the remaining piece through no conscious effort of my own.
I know you have witnessed this too, but just take a moment to actually think about it.
My body noticed the splinter immediately.
My finger turned red and hot, it was throbbing, and it did swell a bit.
My immune system did not let anything from this splinter get any deeper into my body.
Its job now was to remove the splinter.
It took months, but it finally came out.
I did actually celebrate! I still have the picture.
All of this is to say that inflammation is a normal body process that works beyond our conscious control.
It is there to keep us safe and healthy.
But like anything else, too much is a bad thing.
Chronic inflammation refers to inflammation that is ongoing – there is no end.
This is the opposite of the above description of the sliver.
The body thinks it is constantly under attack and the immune system is always working on full blast.
Systemic inflammation means it is taking place in more than one area of the body.
Insulin Resistance, Inflammation, and PCOS
Insulin resistance, which is a common symptom of PCOS, can cause widespread inflammation.
Insulin is needed to communicate with cells to allow glucose molecules to enter.
When there is insulin resistance, cells are not in communication with insulin in a healthy way, so they are not taking in much, if any, glucose from the bloodstream.
This leads to higher levels of glucose in the blood.
Glucose is highly energetic and can create many free radicals, and all of these free radicals cause damage to the inner layers of the blood vessels.
For this reason, glucose in high levels in the blood is inflammatory.
As you may have guessed, this is not good for the cardiovascular system over time.
This may be one of the reasons cardiovascular disease can be one of the long term health issues faced by those with untreated PCOS.
How Does Inflammation Connect to PCOS?
Low grade inflammation, which can be caused by many things, stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens – which is one of the three criteria listed for a PCOS diagnosis.
This can also lead to heart and blood vessel problems.
Inflammation does not have one cause or even one effect.
It can be caused by physical, mental, emotional, and even energetic stimuli.
What Can You Do About Inflammation?
Luckily there are many things you can do to decrease inflammation in the body.
It helps to understand how inflammation works and to know how it is affecting your body.
Know your symptoms, know your choices for support.
If you know you are sensitive to a specific food and you continue to eat it, your body will likely create an inflammatory response.
In this case you would remove the food from your diet for at least 4 weeks.
At this time, if you are feeling better, you can try adding in small amounts of this food every 4 days if you can.
Some foods you may be able to eat again, some you may not.
As described above, high levels of glucose in the blood is inflammatory.
Decrease refined sugar intake and work on eating carbs with protein and/or fat.
Address Insulin Resistance
If you know you have insulin resistance, you can work on keeping your blood sugar levels as even and steady as possible.
This includes eating smaller meals more often to avoid dips and spikes.
The smaller meals contain complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Avoid high sugar foods.
Increase fiber intake.
As for lifestyle recommendations, they are fairly basic and you have probably heard them before:
- Improve gut health
- Get enough quality sleep
- Add movement to the day – exercise in some form
- Get that sun on your skin or take a vitamin D supplement
- Work on de-stressing
- Remove overly processed and refined foods
All of these additions can help with inflammation, and I will be addressing most of these further in later posts.
Inflammation will cause issues in multiple areas of the body.
It is always important to work on decreasing it.
Whether you have PCOS or not, doing what you can to decrease inflammation will make you feel better – if the cause is inflammation.
Getting to know and understand your body on a deeper level will bring you a beautiful connection that can really help you on your health and wellness path.
The great thing about holistic nutrition is that most of the recommendations given are easy to implement and can really improve symptoms.
These recommendations can go well with medications from your doctor too. (Just make sure you have checked for contraindications.)
There is no need to follow only one way.
All of these areas can work together for our best health!
Knowing your specific symptoms can really help narrow down the most effective strategy to take.
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Yours in plant love,